Joel Augustus Rogers's Reflection and End of Life Admiration of Marcus Garvey in New York

By Asukile, Thabiti | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Joel Augustus Rogers's Reflection and End of Life Admiration of Marcus Garvey in New York


Asukile, Thabiti, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


  He stirred the blacks in the New World and parts of Africa to feel
  that in spite of the white man's vilifying of them they were human
  beings just the same. In other words, he gave them back self-respect
  and opened for them windows of hope that would never be closed. Many
  could have been reached by no other message but his, that is, the
  promise of a land where they would no longer be pushed around and
  abused because of a difference of color. (2)

  J. A. Rogers, 1947

  In reality, Marcus Garvey was a promoter. That was his true genius.
  He was also a diplomat, a psychologist, and one who saw himself as
  a scientist of the science of politics. What Garvey promoted was the
  idea of racial pride, and along with racial pride the idea of the
  political redemption of Africa. He did this between 1914 and when he
  died in 1940. He himself said that his greatest strength was that of
  an organizer. But I think that what he meant by that was an
  outstanding organizer of various enterprises and ventures--in other
  words, a promoter. The main ideological thrust of his myriad schemes
  was his steadfast belief in "Africa for the Africans, those at home
  and abroad." (3)

  Historian, Robert A. Hill, 2000

A plethora of scholarship has been written about the life of the twentieth century black nationalist figure and icon Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). Today, we owe a great debt to Amy Jacques-Garvey, Robert A. Hill, Tony Martin, Edmund David Cronon, Rupert Lewis, Wilson Moses, Colin Grant, and a host of other scholars who have examined the importance of Garvey's life and philosophical influence in Jamaica, America, Africa, and the Western hemisphere. Conversations and writings about Garvey have provoked some of the most scholarly debates between people who are pro-Garvey, anti-Garvey, or noncommittal about what Garvey represented to black racial consciousness and humanity. It is very likely more scholarship about Garvey's life will emerge and the importance of his life will continue to be debated in subsequent years. Looking back into history of New York city, the black historian and Pittsburgh Courier journalist, Joel Augustus Rogers (1880-1966) was one the first individuals to give a written critical assessment of Garvey's life in World's Great Men of Color: 3000 B.C. to 1946 A.D. (WGMC). (4)

Since no other scholars in the past have fully explored or investigated the acquaintance of Rogers and Garvey, this essay seeks to examine what were the occasional key interactions between both men that led to Rogers' critical assessment of Garvey in WGMC and his end of life admiration of Garvey in 1965.

This essay seeks to reveal the tremendous respect Rogers had for Garvey just before his own death in 1966. It must be stressed at the beginning that at the current moment there appears to be no extant primary sources of how Garvey felt about Rogers throughout his lifetime. It is hoped that maybe in the future some scholar or scholars may come across or find some untouched primary sources that will give us clearer picture between the interactions of Rogers and Garvey. However, since at the present moment there is a silent voice of Garvey about Rogers this does not in any way minimize or take away what Rogers experienced through his occasional interaction with Garvey, nor his personal views about one the most remarkable black male in the twentieth century. The essay seeks to make a contribution to the historiography and literature of Garvey through the voice of Rogers which has been overlooked or not known by many scholars in the past and present. Rogers' voice is very important because it is not a secondary voice through someone else. He actually interacted with Garvey and earned the respect of Garvey's widow Amy-Jacques Garvey (1895-1973) for his historical scholarship.

During his lifetime, Rogers became a prolific self-trained historian, photo-anthropologist, novelist, and journalist for the Pittsburgh Courier & the New York Amsterdam News. …

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